TIA customs officials’ sudden action leaves Bacchus lovers high and dry

Kathmandu, January 17

Customs officials at Tribhuvan International Airport seem to have suddenly been jolted from slumber into hyperactive mode to implement the duty-free liquor policy, adding to the hassles of incoming passengers.

Ramesh Baral, a resident of Samakhusi, was treated like a criminal by customs officials at TIA upon his arrival from Shanghai on Tuesday. His offence: Carrying two one-litre bottles of duty-free liquor.

Customs officials seized one of the bottles and scorned Baral ‘for not knowing the legal provision — passengers can bring only one bottle of liquor not exceeding one litre’.

Baral, who travels abroad frequently, used to bring in a few bottles of duty-free liquor in the past. “I was never obstructed before,” he said. “However, this time I was treated like a criminal.”

The TIA Customs Office was quite flexible with those carrying duty-free items in the past. But lately, it has become strict with passengers who possess goods in excess of the quantity or volume stipulated by the rule. One of the items that customs officials are keeping an eye on is liquor.

“This wouldn’t have been a big problem had we been notified about the change in policy. I wouldn’t have breached the law had I known we are not allowed to carry more than a litre of liquor,” Baral said.

In the past, too arriving passengers were not allowed to carry more than a litre of duty-free liquor. But this rule was not enforced strictly. However, everything changed two weeks ago.

“The higher authority has ordered us to seize all goods that are in excess of the quota allocated to passengers. And we are acting accordingly,” said Dhurba Raj Bishwokarma, under secretary at the TIA Customs Office. In the last two weeks, the office has seized around 3,000 bottles of liquor from passengers, according to him.

Bishwokarma said all goods seized at the airport would be auctioned. However, passengers allege that those goods end up being used or consumed by customs officials.

While the government has enforced its policy on import of duty-free goods strictly, it has not informed airports abroad about its rules. Though TIA witnesses the arrival of thousands of passengers every day, it has informed only a few Gulf nations about its policy on import of duty-free products.

What does the rule book say

  • Incoming passengers are allowed to bring in a litre of liquor, one mobile phone, a laptop, a pen drive, a camera, up to 50 grams of gold, up to 500 grams of silver and up to 15 sets of clothes, without having to pay any duty
  • If passengers possess goods in excess of the stipulated quantity, they must pay customs duty equivalent to 40 per cent of the value of goods to release them. But this rule

    does not apply to liquor. Passengers carrying more than a litre of liquor must relinquish excess bottles at the customs office